A firm whose failure to implement safety measures led to the tragic death of a young boy has been fined £860,000.
Contractors RJ McLeod were responsible for a construction site that Shea Ryan was able to enter in Glasgow’s Drumchapel on July 16, 2020.
The ten-year-old bypassed insecure fencing before sitting beside an open manhole situated 60 metres from a children’s play park.
Shea said to other kids there that he “wanted to go down.”
Prosecutor Saud Ul-Hassan told Glasgow Sheriff Court: “Shea began to climb down the ladder where he slipped and fell.
“From the position of the ladder, he fell to the water below.”
The distance between the ladder and the bottom of the manhole was 6.3 metres.
The other children raised the alarm and Shea’s stepdad Graham Patterson entered the manhole.
Police attended and officers found Shea lying on his back with Mr Patterson and a neighbour beside him.
Mr Ul-Hassan said: “Shea was seen to have severe head injuries, cold to the touch and was not breathing.”
An officer brought Shea to the surface and performed CPR before he was taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital, but he could not be saved.
The cause of death was noted as “Head injury and drowning.”
RJ McLeod – whose most recent turnover was £194m with a profit of £25m – had taken temporary possession from another company ABV.
They were carrying out work on a Glasgow City Council project on surface water to reduce flooding in the area.
The company pled guilty earlier this week to failing to ensure people not in their employment were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Sheriff Matthew Jackson KC told the sentencing that the headline figure for a fine was £1.5m.
The sheriff stated that this was reduced due to mitigating factors notably the timing of the company’s plea.
He said: “Nothing this court can do can bring Shea back who was a wonderful son and friend as well as a loss to his family, school and all of us.
“What this court can do is select an appropriate sentence.
“Everyone can learn from this dreadful mistake.
“This is a fine which will remind the company’s shareholders and directors of the gravity of this offence.
“This will not lessen in any way or replace the terrible loss of Shea’s life.”
A member of the public gallery shouted: “They will still sleep at night, she won’t be.”
The earlier hearing was told that the company “failed to undertake a full assessment on the work area and consider its close proximity to the nearby play park and the risk of children being attracted to the site as well as identify the measures to prevent unauthorised access.”
The company was also found not to have kept the existing measures under review.
They were further criticised for not having double fencing on the area of the site.
The hearing was told that the fencing had been subject to vandalism in the past and that the site had been breached on six occasions.
The fencing had been bolstered in the past but this did not happen at the area near the play park.
Mr Ul-Hassan said: “There was a lack of a formal written system that all fence reports and system were recorded in writing.”
It was stated as a result the company didn’t take sufficient action to eliminate known risk until after the incident.
The reason for the manhole cover being removed has not been determined.
Since the incident, the company has increased its fencing measures and a log has been formed. Manhole covers are also subject to checks.
Motion sensors and solar powered security cameras are also installed.
It was revealed a fatal accident inquiry into Shea’s death will take place at a later date.
Paul Marshall, defending, told the earlier hearing: “I extend deepest sympathies for the tragic loss to the family of Shea.
“The company takes safety very seriously and it is a matter of great concern and remorse that he lost his life for the breach which the company accepts responsibility.
“The company accepts responsibility for the breaches libelled which was failing to carry out a sufficient risk assessment on people gaining access to the construction site.”
Shea’s mum Joanne Ferguson also said in a statement: “My son is not here and that destroys me every day.
“That totally avoidable accident has ruined my life and my kid’s lives – I don’t even feel human anymore at times because of the grief.
“Wee Shea is missed every second of every day and his family and friends will always love and miss him.”
A spokesperson for RJ McLeod said it “fully accepted” the ruling, adding a “comprehensive review” of the incident had since been carried out.
“RJ McLeod (Contractors) Limited fully accepts the outcome and ruling of the court. We extend our
condolences to the family of Shea Ryan,” they said.
“We have taken action to protect against the risk of a re-occurrence. We fully co-operated and engaged with the investigating authorities and note that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service explained in court the actions we took immediately following the incident.
“Safety is always our top priority and site safety updates are implemented across the business on an ongoing basis.”